cover image City of Widows

City of Widows

Loren D. Estleman / Author Forge $20.95 (254p) ISBN 978-0-312-

Page Murdock, the stalwart, peripatetic hero of Estleman's lean and lively western, is fed up with marshaling for a domineering federal judge in the Montana Territory. Aiming to settle down, he buys himself a half interest in a bar in San Sabado, New Mexico Territory. But things don't go smoothly for the erstwhile lawman. Almost immediately he runs afoul of Frank Baronet, the corrupt and scheming county sheriff who has more to hide than just nefarious business dealings and graft. To make matters worse, upon his arrival in San Sabado--called the City of Widows because, as a haven for banditos and revolutionaries near the Mexican border, its male population is regularly decimated--Murdock finds that his partner in the saloon has taken on yet another partner, diminishing Murdock's share to only a third. Then there's Baronet's brother, supposedly dead but still robbing banks with abandon. Estleman ( Bloody Season ) brews all these elements together into a potent mix, enlivened by some of the best dialogue in the business. He skillfully mingles reality-based characters (Gov. Lew Wallace of Ben Hur fame, and Pat Garrett) with such fictional creations as Poker Annie (a cardplaying expert modeled on the real-life Poker Alice). As readers have come to expect of this veteran writer, he also displays an eye for detail and gift of description that transcends the genre. (Apr.)